All posts by Nivedita Menon

“Shame is a revolutionary sentiment”: Sadanand Menon

According to their own admission, the Delhi Police bought these in bulk
According to their own admission, the Delhi Police bought these in bulk!

A few days ago in a comment on Shuddha’s little forensic exercise, I had drawn attention to the pernicious communal stereotyping evident in the widely circulated pictures of the three arrested terrorists Continue reading “Shame is a revolutionary sentiment”: Sadanand Menon

Nationalisms, Militarization and the Politics of War in Sri Lanka: Ahilan Kadirgamar

Any discussion of Sri Lanka at the moment can not avoid discussion of the war.  And at the heart of discussions on the war in Sri Lanka, is the question of what will come after the war, at least after an end to the war in its conventional mode with defeats faced by the LTTE on the battlefield.  It is indeed important to grasp that the current state of anxiety is not only about the war but also what will come after the war.  From the London based Economist to Tamil activists in and outside Sri Lanka, this has become the central question.  I write this article as a dissenting Tamil activist and as a member of that diverse set of Tamil activists both inside and outside Sri Lanka, who chose to stand independent of the LTTE, but whose politics nevertheless at the moment is dispersed from the Left to the Right, across a whole range of issues from class, nationalism, caste to gender.  In thinking about the outcomes after the war, just as we could not predict the direction of the war prior to its resumption, we can not predict the outcomes after the war, which are part of the dynamic of war; it drastically changes the political landscape.  But we nevertheless take positions on the war; on either side or against the war.  And those positions are explicitly political, they are underpinned by a politics, whether they are pro-war or, as has been less commonly acknowledged that of anti-war.  Indeed, an anti-war position itself can be arrived at from different political positions, from a pacifist stand to that of political expediency depending on the military fortunes of one actor or another.  It is such politics of war that I intend to explore here in relation to the dynamics of nationalisms and militarization in Sri Lanka.

Continue reading Nationalisms, Militarization and the Politics of War in Sri Lanka: Ahilan Kadirgamar

Is Hindu right wing behind Indian Mujahideen, ask Muslim groups: IANS

September 17th, 2008 – 9:56 pm ICT by IANS –

Mumbai, Sep 17 (IANS) Terming the Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed
responsibility for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and New Delhi, as
fictitious, several Muslim organisations and clerics have demanded
investigations into the possible role of the Hindu right wing in the
terror attacks.In a statement issued here Wednesday evening, 21 Muslim
organisations challenged Indian Mujahideen leaders to come out in the
open and prove their actions.

Continue reading Is Hindu right wing behind Indian Mujahideen, ask Muslim groups: IANS

Chengara: Letter to National Commission for Women by Delhi groups

The Chairperson
National Commission for Women
4, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg,
New Delhi

Subject: Torture and Rape of Women and Other Incidents in the Land Struggle at Chengara, Kerala

Dear Chairperson,

We urge your attention to the following incidents in Chengara, Kerala as they require your urgent intervention.

In the ongoing struggle for land in Chengara, there is escalating violence against the peaceful and democratic protest of the people. Here women are the most affected as they are the targets of brutal attacks by the workers of trade unions affiliated to leading political parties and also other hired henchmen of Harrison Malayalam Ltd. Many women have testified that the attacks happened right in the presence of the police. All these events seem to indicate a total breakdown of the state’s administrative machinery to redress the situation, which makes the intervention of external bodies like yours crucial.

Continue reading Chengara: Letter to National Commission for Women by Delhi groups

Breaking News – Shiv Sena’s secretly Maoist!

Narcoanalysis, it has been scientifically proved by Indian law enforcement agencies, is the final frontier of truth. What comes out of narcoanalysis is solid stuff, the real thing. Confessions and self-implications account for almost all the crimes the cops “crack” – when was the last time you heard of a revelation of who dunnit coming out of careful deductive reasoning based on evidence? Terrorists send emails that can be tracked to physical addresses (“the IP address led the police to B ek batta chaar, gali number 2, Balli Maran”), or they are caught bearing in their pockets, maps of sensitive border areas, scribbled over with little reminders like “death to hindus” in Urdu; or murderers confess under narcoanalysis, like Krishna the compounder in the Arushi murder case, that he and four other “servants” were responsible, thus freeing, thangod, all middle-class people so far involved, from the taint of suspicion. Without confessions no crimes would ever be solved, and narcoanalysis is the scientific, sophisticated, twenty-first century alternative to the “Abey bol, kaise nahin bolega, tera baap bhi bolega” school of confession extraction which has been the mainstay of coppery so far.

So narcoanalysis reveals the truth. And the truth is apparently, that the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray have funded Maoist activities. “Suspected naxalite” Arun Ferreira confirmed our deepest suspicions in his narcoanalysis test – while other political parties, bless their souls, will never fund maoist activities, he blurted out, Shiv Sena and the ABVP have always helped out the comrades with money.

Shiv Sena has issued a strong denial. It has in fact, “rubbished” these allegations, making the bizarre claim that “Naxalism is born out of a communist agenda” (oh come on!), and since the Shiv Sena is well known to be anti-communist, why would they pour money into naxal coffers? I don’t know, it all sounds very plausible to me, and anyway, it’s not up to us to decide whether the claim is false or not. This fact came out of narcoanalysis, let me remind you, and we HAVE TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

To add to their cavalier disregard for truth, the Sena spokesperson further added, “a drugged person might talk any rubbish“.

I propose the Shiv Sena be immediately banned for its anti-national contempt for narcoanalysis, the unimpeachable symbol of the nation’s commitment to truth.

Quepem by the kilo: Hartman de Souza on Mining in Goa

I am posting below a requiem to Quepem by my old friend Hartman. It reads eerily like a companion piece to the curatorial essay to Manifesta 7 by Raqs, posted earlier on Kafila. Raqs wrote:

Mountains are flattened to mine bauxite, the main aluminium ore. Mountains of aluminium waste may eventually take their place…The “rest of now” is the residue that lies at the heart of contemporaneity. It is what persists from moments of transformation, and what falls through the cracks of time. It is history’s obstinate remainder, haunting each addition and subtraction with arithmetic persistence, endlessly carrying over what cannot be accounted for. The rest of now is the excess, which pushes us towards respite, memory and slowing things down.

And here’s Hartman:

As you read this, mourn the brutal rape and murder of half a dozen steep, thickly forested hills barely 12 kilometres from Quepem town in south Goa. These form an integral link of the magnificent Western Ghats that surround Goa, and as any schoolchild studying the environment will tell you, they play a crucial role in providing Goa its ecological wellbeing.

And yet, in blatant contravention of wisdom we purport to impart to children, hundreds of forests are being cut down around Quepem even as I write this. The denuded land turned inside out so fast, a hill can disappear in three months, leaving behind suppurating wounds that go down so deep the giant tipper trucks at the bottom look like the harmless toys little boys plays with.

Continue reading Quepem by the kilo: Hartman de Souza on Mining in Goa

Reflections on the Great Unexpected Auto Debate

Little did I think when I put up this image, that it would lead to such a rich set of comments on class, caste and gender.

The picture had been circulating on the web, in blogs and email lists for some time, and without comment, as a funny, jokey kind of thing. Autos and trucks (in Delhi anyway,) are renowned, as Aman pointed out in his comment, for pithy, witty, quirky, dolorous, amorous etc. comments on life. Briefly glimpsed, their ability to linger in our minds is a reflection of their literary quality.

When this one was sent to me, the reason I posted it on kafila was initially light-hearted too, since we consider autos to be our mascots, as representing kafila’s philosophy and relationship to the city in some way – small, cheeky, full of “attitude”, winding nimbly through the mass of traffic, a resistant challenge to the idea of a shiny, “world-city-like-paris-and-singapore” that our various governments want to turn all our cities into, by neatly removing the poor, the workers, the slums etc.

Continue reading Reflections on the Great Unexpected Auto Debate

When you’re OUT, you’re IN

Since Gay is in, currently, for the Indian media, Sonali Gulati, film-maker, out lesbian and gay rights activist, knows what it is to be hotly pursued for sound-bites. She has posted on youtube a recorded conversation with a reporter from IBN 7 pressing her for her take on a “lesbian” issue. Her quiet , insistent questioning reduces him to confused gibberish, but more importantly, makes the point that “lesbians” are no more and no less newsworthy than straight people – At one point she asks him, “Agar yeh ek heterosexual couple ke saath ho jaata, tab aap kis se comment lete?”

(If this had happened with a heterosexual couple, then to whom would you have gone for comments?)

Meaning of course, that any and every heterosexual would not be considered “expert” enough to comment on any and every heterosexual issue. The bemused reporter starts all over again with his insane drivel – he simply does not get it. Can she really be giving up an opportunity to appear on television? Naaah.

But go on – listen to Sonali.

Prasanta Chakravarty – Of Demos, Innovation and Affect

Carrying forward the debate around Partha Chatterjee’s article in EPW.


In the wake of the development debates around the nation, one witnesses an interesting array of articles—polemical as well as academic—that takes on headlong issues of political intervention by developing the terms of negotiation and deliberation in a certain direction. And that is the story of growing up—that democracy is the story of pragma, of mature understanding of the contestatory space. These are reminders that politics of good intentions is benign self-deception. Worse: it is apolitical, prophetic, self-indulgent.

Continue reading Prasanta Chakravarty – Of Demos, Innovation and Affect

Ahilan Kadirgamar on Southasian Solidarity and Questions of State and Land

[This guest post is by AHILAN KADIRGAMAR who is an activist with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum. He has written about the international dimension of the conflict and peace process in Sri Lanka and worked on human rights concerns related to the conflict. His current interests include the political economy of state-society relations and attempts at state reform in Sri Lanka.]

I have been travelling between cities, from Kathmandu to Delhi to Calcutta and down south to Madras. Visiting friends, but also trying to understand peoples’ perceptions of Sri Lanka in a time of war. I give talks here and there, but many more meetings over tea and dinner. There is an older tradition of solidarity, but now I am thinking again of the meaning of Southasian solidarity.

In Calcutta, on an activist’s book shelf, I find a book signed and gifted to her in the mid-eighties by Para, my friend from Berlin who passed away last year. Kumaraswamy Pararajasingham, a Marxist and human rights activist in Lanka in his early years, was a pillar of Tamil dissent over the last two decades of exile in Germany. An old Marxist in Calcutta, asks me about Hector Abhayawardhana, the theoretician of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party Continue reading Ahilan Kadirgamar on Southasian Solidarity and Questions of State and Land

Goa: How the battle was won

By Rifat Mumtaz and Madhumanti Sardar

(Rifat Mumtaz and Madhumanti Sardar work with NCAS and are involved in campaigns against SEZs).

Recently, Goa became the only state in India to openly declare that no more Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would be set up on its territory. This was a result of relentless pressure from almost the entire state — villagers, educated middle class, professionals, activists, the church and media. Continue reading Goa: How the battle was won

Judging Women

The honourable judges of the honourable judiciary are on an honourable roll…

Anuradha Roy of Permanent Black sent out the following:

On the 9th of February 2008, remarks by two eminent judiciary members the Chief Justice of Karnataka, Cyriac Joseph and State Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice S.R.Nayak, stating that immodest dressing was the cause of increasing crimes against women were reported in the press.

The Hon’ble Chief Justice further elaborated his statement by mentioning that “Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us” and that the “provocative dresses that women wear in buses” put the “men travelling in the buses” in awkward situations and hence “women must dress modestly.”

The Chairperson, State Human Rights Commission, speaking on ‘Human Rights and the Lawyers Role’, gave his opinion on the Mumbai New Year molestation issue, when two women had their dresses torn off by a mob
of men outside a nightclub: “Yes, men are bad… But who asked them (the women) to venture out in the night…Women should not have gone out in the night and when they do, there is no point in complaining that men touched them and hit them. Youth are destroying our culture for momentary satisfaction.”

Anuradha sent this out without comments. I understand her mood. I’m done too. No witty commentary, no smart asides. I’m just plain exhausted.

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State Repression In Chhattisgarh And Continued Detention Of Dr Binayak Sen


A group of former bureaucrats, academicians, lawyers and social activists visited Chhattisgarh from 18 – 22 January 2008 in connection with the prolonged incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen. The team met the Governor and Director General of Police and also met Dr Binayak Sen in the central prison at Raipur. Some members of the group also visited areas in the districts of Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur.

In the light of the information gathered, the team is of the opinion that the charges filed against Dr Sen under the IPC, CrPC and the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act (CPSA) are unwarranted and unconstitutional. The CPSA enables the government to interpret the rendering of simple humanitarian acts as unlawful The Act defines “unlawful activity” so broadly that every act of vigilant citizenship can be construed as unlawful and anti-national. Thus it is clear that Dr Sen is being targeted in his capacity as General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh. The reports produced by the PUCL have highlighted the anti-constitutional violence legitimized by the state through the Salwa Judum campaign.

Continue reading State Repression In Chhattisgarh And Continued Detention Of Dr Binayak Sen

Human rights and public health are now the gravest threats to people’s safety

Excerpts from Saikat Datta on the doctored case against Binayak Sen.

What is the basis of the Chhattisgarh police’s case against Dr Sen? The chargesheet against him says he is a Naxalite sympathiser. This conclusion was reached after his name came up when the police recovered three letters from suspected Maoist Piyush Guha, arrested at the Raipur railway station. These were written to Guha by another alleged Maoist, Narayan Sanyal, presently lodged in Raipur Jail. The police claim Guha, under custodial interrogation, confessed that Dr Sen acted as courier.

Dr Sen did meet Sanyal in jail on several occasions. But each time it was with due permission from the jail superintendent and a body search before and after his meetings. And even if we were to accept that Dr Sen smuggled the letters out, what exactly was “incriminating” in them? One letter deals with farmer-related issues, the letter writer’s health and so on. In another note, Sanyal is discussing issues relating to his case and the approach his lawyer has taken in court. In yet another, he complains of there being “no
magazines” to read in jail and terrible conditions in prison.

Activist-lawyers like Prashant Bhushan see the framing of Dr Sen on such flimsy evidence as “a message that clearly states that people must shut their eyes to violations of human rights of the marginalised or risk arrest”.

Continue reading Human rights and public health are now the gravest threats to people’s safety

It’s a new year, and Binayak Sen is still in prison

Binayak Sen’s appeal to the Supreme Court for bail was dismissed on December 10, 2007 (in one of those meaningless ironies, December 10th is of course, International Human Rights Day).

A doctor working in Chhattisgarh, Binayak was arrested on May 14th 2007. His crime? He visited and treated an ailing prisoner in Raipur Central Jail with the permission of the jail authorities. The prisoner is a Naxalite. So Dr Sen is assumed to be a terrorist conspiring to overthrow the state, so dangerous that he cannot be given bail.

Continue reading It’s a new year, and Binayak Sen is still in prison

Monobina Gupta on Inconvenient Women

Recently Kiran Bedi, the country’s first woman police officer, sought voluntary retirement after being in the eye of a storm following her allegations of gender discrimination in the police force. Bedi, who had transformed Tihar jail from filthy dungeons to a clean and livable place and has had an outstanding career, was superseded for the post of Delhi’s police commissioner. Because she was a woman.

Women in civil service have come up against sexism time and again. Madhu Bhaduri, who joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1968, recalls how women IFS officers launched their first protest against blatant gender discrimination in this elite branch of service, which was at that time wrapped up in layers of  discriminatory codes.

Here is an account of how it all started…

Continue reading Monobina Gupta on Inconvenient Women

Charu Gupta on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya

Like many other lovers of Bollywood cinema, I too was caught up since October this year in the countdown to the battle of all battles, with the release of Om Shanti Om (OSO) and Saawariya on 9 November 2007. Reams have been written, debated and analysed on the two films in newspapers, television networks, and everyday discussions. They have been depicted as films catering to very different sensibilities, and representing vastly diverse forms. The verdict seems to have declared both as average films, though OSO seems to be faring better than Saawariya at the box office. I enjoyed the first half of OSO particularly and thought Saawariya as a film with great form, but not much content. 

However, as a fan of Bollywood popular cinema, what struck me most was one striking similarity between the two films. I thought both the films offered great visual pleasure and feast for the female spectators, where the spectacular and stylish nude male bodies and images of both Ranbir Raj Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan, though very different from each other, were the prime objects of desire and erotic spectacle. Both OSO and Saawariya have urban heroes, whose bodies are produced and carved, rooted in providing a voyeuristic visual treat especially to most straight women and gay men. The identity of both the heroes in these films in centrally tied to the consumption of their nude bodies by the viewer. The films in some senses signify the coming of age of a new genre of Bollywood cinema, where it is not so much the female body but the male body which circulates and is on display, offering a sexualised imaginative anatomy. They also signify that the language of discourse of Hindi films has undergone a dramatic post modernist change in its conception of desire, where most of it is conducted not through the soul but through the body. There is no central heart, but a decentring of emotions at play here. In the recent past too, nude male bodies of Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan have been offered to the viewer. It perhaps is also a reflection of the fact that more and more women are crowding the cinema halls and form at times the major chunk of spectatorship, and they are a vital part of the cinematic experience. 

Continue reading Charu Gupta on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya

That day 15 years ago

Read Asad Mustafa on his memories of the day the Babri Masjid was demolished.

In many ways it is just like any other Lucknow winter day. Sun has come up and my mother is watching her pickles dry on the roof. Our neighbor, Shukla-ji’s daughter has come for a lazy winterBabri Masjid afternoon conversation with my mother and is oiling her hair. I am struggling with unsolved papers from previous years’ JEE tests. This year’s JEE is going to be my first big test in the real world.

Doing What States Do (Very Well)

Arundhati Roy articulated in her interview last night on IBN7, the deep suspicions of the “deep state” that many of us have harboured in our collective anti-national (and now apparently anti-left) bosom. How convenient that the violent anti-Tasleema protests have deflected the anger of the left-secular folks from Nandigram to Islamic fundamentalism. Arundhati responded to a question about whether she was claiming there was a conspiracy, by saying, quite correctly, that there doesn’t need to be anything as crude as that. But we know, people on the street know – there’s something way too convenient in the timing. Or, as she put it elsewhere, quoting a Hindi film song, “yeh public sab jaanti hai.”

Imagine my disappointment as a political theorist to discover that we don’t need to make any intellectual forays into the complex ways in which states “see” and “do”. There was a conspiracy, and it worked out like the the script of a bad street play, in which the villains mutter and grimace and do bad things in the dark of the night, while the good folk get all confused by the sudden transformation of their peaceful locality by dawn. (Life is in fact a bad street play, a realization I came to long ago).

Continue reading Doing What States Do (Very Well)